TAMPA — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' original franchise quarterback says he knows what it's like to be Josh Freeman.
Thirty-one years ago, Doug Williams also was the 17th overall pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But he feels another connection with the Kansas State star.
"His K-State career was a lot like my (Tampa Bay) Bucs career," Williams said Monday. "If K-State didn't have Josh Freeman, they might have shut the program down. Josh Freeman was it for them. A lot of people that love the Wildcats might not want to hear that, but it's fact.
"I read all the blogs and comments after the draft and I think it's unfair. There ain't nobody asking Josh (Freeman) to take the reins today."
Josh Freeman, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' first-round pick, was introduced Monday by coach Raheem Morris and general manager Mark Dominik. He posed for pictures with a No. 1 jersey, similar to what he wore at K-State.
But so far, he doesn't seem to be first in the hearts of many Bucs fans.
"You have to take it in stride," Freeman said of the fan reaction. "I had a plan for everything. I anticipated it, being from Kansas State and not having the national exposure like when Ben Roethlisberger was drafted. I'm from a smaller school, maybe didn't have the national spotlight on us all the time.
"I didn't win as many games as the other guys. I expected a little of this to come. I hear they're great fans here and people respond to winning. So I think if I go out and play well, they'll have no complaints then."
Williams, who works as the Bucs pro personnel coordinator, says people are too focused on some of Freeman's numbers, which he argues aren't as bad as you might think.
In three seasons, Freeman threw 44 touchdowns and 34 interceptions, but 15 of those picks came as a 19-year-old true freshman. They talk about his completion percentage, but as a sophomore, he completed 63.3 percent. They talk about his touchdown-to-interception rating, but last season he threw 20 TDs with eight INTs. His passer rating was 127.26 in '07 and 136.48 in '08.
"They can beat this kid up all they want," Williams said. "I've watched the '08 tape and every throw he made he got his (butt) hit. He either did that or would've taken a lot of sacks."
Williams said he watched a lot of tape of Freeman. "I've seen the kid bring his team back from 10 points and be leading 39-38 with 1:10 left and lose 41-39," Williams said. "Somebody has got to stop somebody."
To Freeman's credit, he takes the blame for back-to-back 5-7 records.
"I'm not pointing fingers; I just think it came down to me trying to … be like a Superman, to have some amazing effort if we were going to be able to win," Freeman said. "I think I played out of character, and I definitely think it hurt me."
Williams wonders how much better Freeman might have been had he been able to sit a year, like Sanchez did at USC. Or if he had a first-round draft pick at running back, like Matthew Stafford did.
But Williams looks at the situation Freeman will step into with the Bucs and thinks it's ideal for him.
"I was born too soon," Williams said. "I wish I had an opportunity like Josh has to come into. Number one, he has a young offensive line and weapons to work with. You don't have an old offensive football team. Your running backs are your oldest players.
"It's a perfect situation for Josh. He gets to watch guys like (Byron) Leftwich and (Luke) McCown battle it out for the starter, and he can see it firsthand. One of them is going to take him under their wing."
Williams says if the Bucs were looking for a rookie quarterback to play this season, it wouldn't have been Freeman.
"I love Josh, but if we're looking for a guy to come in here and play tomorrow, let's get Sanchez," Williams said. "But ask me who has the most upside, it's Josh Freeman. Bar none. I've seen them all play.
"That's why I like this pick more than anything. There wasn't any pressure on Raheem or Mark. I think if you had to take a poll here with Bucs fans and across the country, they said don't draft Josh Freeman. In meeting rooms, it wasn't about a poll. It was about who we think is the best guy.
"They've been unfair to this kid."